Simple and clean, is the way Little Witch Academia is making me feel, telling the story of Akko, a young girl who’s dream to become a witch leads her to the magical academy of Luna Nova. It is here where she will comically fail, time and time again, as Akko is severely disadvantaged due to the fact she doesn’t come from a magical family. She was only introduced to the magical world by the extravagant shows of Shiny Chariot, a famous witch entertainer driven by her desire of inspiring magic in all who watch her perform. Chariot is looked down upon by her fellow colleagues because of her career path, and one day she just disappears, leaving Akko with yet another dream: to find her…and return to her the Shiny Rod which she finds in a forest and uses to escape a giant chicken monster with breath that turns anything it touches to stone. No need to go into further detail, it’s just a thing that happens. Anyway, it’s made obvious who Shiny Chariot is to the audience from episode one (not directly but it’s easy to put together), making it feel a little too stretched out when all the characters find out where Chariot’s been after all this time, three fourths of the way through the series.
At Luna Nova, Akko makes a bunch of friends, some not right away, and they all have fun in a handful of wacky misadventures for the first two thirds of the show. It’s all really enjoyable up until half-way throguh the series, where they introduce the secret behind the Shiny Rod and the grand quest the show had been leading Akko on. It’s at this point when the narrative should fundamentally change, knowing there’s now a desired end in sight. Not exactly a deadline, but a goal to be reached. When something like this is dropped on the audience, it doesn’t feel quite right when the main character decides to slow down and have some fun side quests.
These side quests take the form of episode long character arcs for the side characters, characters that are frankly kind of shoehorned in to be “friends”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every one of these episodes, but they did feel a bit like last-ditch efforts to establish relationships that could be used for the all-together moment at the end, which I will get back to. The side characters in Little Witch Academia just don’t come off very strong, and it would take more than just one episode arc for them to establish a real bond with Akko.
The best characters are the ones that actually consistently antagonize Akko. Her relationship with Diana obviously sticks out as the strongest, and their interactions are always the most memorable. On opposite sides of a spectrum of class (Diana on top, Akko, on bottom), they manage to push each other forward. Akko sees her as someone to try and beat, while Diana gets a humbling reminder every time she sees that Akko was actually able to one-up her. Though Akko almost never gets an “official” victory, Diana recognizes her skill as Akko surprises her again and again with her immense amount of determination and proclivity for always saving the day. Needless to say, her character arc was the greatest, as it established some common ground, similarities that were sneakily hidden in the first episode, and from that soil sprouted a loving friendship built on admiration and understanding. Also, it’s not yuri. I don’t understand why people always jump to yuri, and I’m not against it being yuri, but it’s just not yuri. It’s not a romance series at all, though if it was, Akko would end up with Andrew. But I digress.
In terms of animation, characters are delightfully expressive in a sort of hybrid style of classic western cartoon mixed with Trigger anime character models. It’s really fun to watch, and probably even enjoyable without the dialogue. Lots of movement is typically preferable, as opposed to mostly still frames and barely any inventiveness within each scene. Akko is the most adorable, of course, as she happens to be the moodiest, giving her a greater range of emotion that can be shown through just body language alone. Aside from the character animation, Little Witch has plenty of flashy and explosive action sequences of which studio Trigger is well known for. Most of the time the show is quite a spectacle, with its lowest points honestly being its OPs and EDs. Great songs, I listen to them in the car all too often, but the videos themselves are quite underwhelming, especially OP 2, with it’s disturbing lack of any backgrounds. Can’t really say the white background was an artistic choice so much as a lack of creativity or budget, but I’d be open to listen to any evidence to the contrary.
Saving you from spoilers, I’m going to now talk about the overall theme of the ending rather than the ending itself. Basically, what I felt the theme was throughout the series did not entirely match the end result. Repeated throughout the season is a wonderfully simple catchphrase, one that resonates in the important sentiment of willpower, a lesson about not giving up on yourself that has been told and retold at least a million times over. It seemed more of a message for the individual, something that’s shown through Akko finding reminders in the series and ultimately pushing herself forward. It’s because of this theme that I felt the ending overall felt a little misplaced. The final battle, as it were, is more of a all-together, stronger-together event, where everyone pitches in to help Akko reach new heights and save the day. The message here becomes more about believing in Akko, rather than believing in oneself. It takes the significance of Akko believing in herself, which is what almost the entirety of the show has been about, and diminishes it by giving more influence to every character placing their trust in Akko. It’s no longer about Akko finding the strength to persevere because everyone else has already given her that strength, and now she just has to ride their hopes to victory.
Also, part of the ending, which I will not expose in plot details, is terribly silly and obnoxiously implausible even for a show that, again, has a giant chicken monster that turns whatever it breathes on into stone. Despite that ending however, I truly loved Little Witch Academia and the message it mostly stood for. The main cast was easily loveable and the adventure they took part in was crammed full of spectacular moments. Akko’s a splendid, silly, and obnoxiously endearing character that I’m not going to forget about anytime soon, even if she doesn’t ship well with Diana. In the end, she left me with the lesson that can always bear repeating, rephrased in such a lovely way I kinda feel like getting a tattoo of it. It’s just too bad they couldn’t have better OPs to go with it.